Warriors visit Rockets, continue playoff push

NBA Basketball

Given the configuration of the Western Conference standings, it seems unlikely that the Golden State Warriors could play their way out of playoff contention, with a spot in one of the play-in games a strong likelihood considering their three-game cushion over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Warriors (31-32), 10th in the West, have dropped consecutive games after previously winning seven of nine to seemingly build momentum for a playoff push.

In both losses, the Warriors were a sieve defensively: first against the Dallas Mavericks, when Golden State surrendered a 25-0 run to close the first quarter, and then down the stretch against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, with the Warriors surrendering 37 fourth-quarter points in a 126-114 setback.

Golden State, set to visit the Houston Rockets on Saturday, has a depleted roster to blame if an excuse is needed. Draymond Green (shoulder) is questionable to play against the Rockets, and his absence would deepen an already extensive list of sidelined rotation players that includes Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist), Eric Paschall (hip) and Damion Lee (health and safety protocols).

But if the Warriors are to solidify their place in the playoff picture, they must solve what ails them defensively. They aren’t in a precarious position quite yet, but their defensive failings are such that any continued showcasing of vulnerabilities on that end of the court just might prove fatal.

“It’s a tough situation when you know you need this win, you know you need to get things pointed back in the right direction and you don’t get it done,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “We can sit here and talk about whatever the problem was. At the end of the day, we’ve got to either fix it or we’re not.

“Defensively, whatever the issues were, we’ve got to shore them up to be able to play for 48 minutes the way that we’re supposed to, to give ourselves the best chance to win. And if we don’t, then we’re going to be sitting here trying to figure out what the problems are and sound like a broken record at the end of the day.”

The Rockets (16-47) caught a glimpse of their future on Thursday when guard Kevin Porter Jr. became the youngest player in NBA history to post a 50-point, 10-assist game when he paired a career-high 50 points (on a career-best nine 3-pointers) with 11 assists in a stunning 143-136 home victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Porter delivered on the heels of arguably his worst showing of the season earlier in the week when he shot 2-for-12 with five turnovers in a home loss to the Timberwolves.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas said afterward that Porter would come to understand the need to push through substandard individual results in order to achieve the stardom so many have predicted in his future. It didn’t take Porter long to take heed of that advice and apply it in a game setting.

“That’s what he’s capable of,” Rockets forward Kelly Olynyk said of Porter. “He’s an ultra-talented individual that can do a lot of different things. He’s so dangerous and explosive offensively, and that was on display.”

–Field Level Media

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